Radical Books: Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (1961) – History  Workshop

The Wretched of the Earth
Frantz Fanon

Fanon’s controversial works highlights how those in power (in this instance French colonisers) have the ability to condition those under their rule through, among other things, its cultural and educational structures and social customs, particularly language. He describes in visceral detail the ways in which black people in Algeria had been conditioned to accept their supposed inferiority and the deep psychological scars this caused. The anger within Fanon’s work provides a fascinating insight into the thought processes that drive people to use violence as a political weapon and is a useful prompt to talk about issues such as oppression, justice, injustice as well as perspective when tackling difficult social issues.  

The Coddling of the American Mind

The coddling of the American mind: how good intentions and bad ideas are setting up a generation for failure
Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt

Lukianoff and Haidt talk about the ‘well intended’ meaning behind certain social justice movements, particularly concerning the demand by some students in the United States for ‘trigger warnings’ and the censorship of controversial speakers and ideas. Much like Newman (below), they argue that it is important for students to engage with ideas they disagree with, no matter how much they are hurt by them, for they are ill-prepared for life after university if they do not do so.  

Can Asians Think? by Kishore Mahbubani

Can Asians think? Understanding the divide between East and West
Kishore Mahbubani

I frequently refer to this book in my teaching for it reminds us of the challenges we face when considering the perspective of other cultures, communities, countries and societies that are different to their own. Irritated by the growth of Americanisation in the East, Mahbubani in this very provocatively titled book challenges the reader to consider the East from its own cultural perspective, history and tradition, rather than from the perspective of the West or what the West perceives the East to be. That it was mostly written before the so-called ‘war on terror’ and warned of the dangers of American foreign policy (based largely on outdated and condescending assumptions about the non-western world) makes it all the more thought-provoking and a useful reminder of how we should challenge our own assumptions.

The Idea of a University Defined and Illustrated: In Nine Discourses  Delivered to the Catholics of Dublin eBook: Newman, John Henry: Kindle Store

The idea of a university defined and illustrated
John Henry Newman

Although Newman wrote in the context of Catholic education in the nineteenth century, there is much in this well-known work for academics today to consider. Newman argued that universities should produce graduates with a broad knowledge base and imbue them with a desire to learn more about and explore the world. Crucially in terms of becoming aware of our own contexts and cultural condition, Newman advocated that students should be challenged to read works that challenges their world view.